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Food Security in India Leaves Much to Be Desired

Food Security in India Leaves Much to Be Desired

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Published by: harneet kaur6 on Nov 25, 2009
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Food security in India leaves much to be desired
24 February 2009
India's malnutrition figures are not coming down despite a numberof government programmes, says a new report released by WorldFood Programme. The research points out the need for a revampedpublic distribution system and greater public investment to addressthe wants of rural population.New Delhi, India:
High economic growth rates have failed to improve foodsecurity in India leaving the country facing a crisis in its rural economy,warns the latest report released by the World Food Programme and the M SSwaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).A hunger-free India/ Photo credit: Rein Skullerud/ WFPLaunched in the Indian capital on February 20, 2009,
State of Food Insecurity in Rural India
tries to give a broad indicative picture of the level of food insecurity in different states of the country and the operation of thenutrition safety net programmes.The report says that the number of undernourished people is rising,reversing gains made in the 1990s. Slowing growth in food production, risingunemployment and declining purchasing power of the poor in India arecombining to weaken the rural economy.
Strengthening rural interventions
 “The report suggests priority areas of action to help achieve the national andMillennium Development Goal of reducing hunger and malnutrition,” saidMihoko Tamamura, WFP Representative and Country Director for India.It also examines the effectiveness of some of the important food-basedinterventions like the Public Distribution System (PDS), the Integrated ChildDevelopment Services (ICDS), and the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS), andrecommends measures for improved performance. “There is a need to create a universal PDS with uniform prices affordable tothe poor and the allocation should be based on the number of consumption
units in the household,” remarked Professor Venkatesh Athreya whocoordinated this research.He pointed out that many of the social safety net and agriculture productionprogrammes can ensure the availability and access to food.Food security has three components: availability of food in the market,access to food through adequate purchasing power, and absorption of foodin the body. “However, even if the required quantities of macro and micro nutrients aremet, a serious handicap in achieving nutrition security arises from poorsanitation and environmental hygiene and lack of clean drinking water,” added Athreya.The study also highlights larger challenges of climate change and global foodprice rise.
Hunger hotspots
At the global level, the South Asian region is home to more chronically foodinsecure people than any other region in the world and India ranks 94th inthe Global Hunger Index of 119 countries.While famines and starvation deaths remain the popular representation of the contemporary problem of hunger, one of the most significant yetunderstated and perhaps less visible area of concern today is that of chronicor persistent food and nutrition insecurity.This is a situation where people regularly subsist on a very minimal diet thathas poor nutrient and calorific content as compared to medically prescribednorms.This report uses seven indicators, which directly or indirectly affect the foodsecurity and nutritional status of a person. These are based on amount of calories consumed, access to safe drinking water and toilets, women andchildren who are anaemic.On the composite index of food insecurity of rural India, states likeJharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found in the 'very high' level of foodinsecurity, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat.The better performers include Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Jammuand Kashmir. Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka,Orissa and Maharashtra perform poorly.Even economically developed states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, AndhraPradesh and Karnataka find themselves in the category of high foodinsecurity - a reflection perhaps of the manifestation of the agrarian crisis inthe states and its consequent negative impact on the health and well-beingof the rural population.

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